Earth, Wind & Fire fuses jazz, disco and rock for Alumni Weekend

Verdine White, bassist for Earth, Wind & Fire, performs at Friday’s show in the Smith Center. He is the younger brother of the group’s founder, Maurice White. Shannon Brown | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Earth, Wind & Fire kicked off Alumni Weekend on Friday with ’70s funk that left the crowd dancing September away.

The six-time Grammy award-winning group jammed under technicolor lights for an hour and a half at the Smith Center.

Alumni, staff and students nearly filled the stands and floor to see the iconic funk band that has performed for more than four decades.

The group, known for bridging soul, R&B and disco, started the show with the fast-tempo, “Boogie Wonderland,” before blasting hits like “Shining Star” and “After the Love is Gone.”

During “September,” University President Steven Knapp took the stage for a two-minute bongo drum solo, an act he also performed with last year’s Alumni Weekend headliner Chuck Brown.

Band members sported looks from different decades, with bass guitarist Verdine Whited donning a silver jumpsuit with fringe down his legs, and singer Philip Bailey pairing bright green pants with a black-and-white checkered blazer.

The full band, which includes guitarists, drummers and horn players, danced in sync throughout the show. As the show came to a close, the band circled around White as he shook his booty for the crowd.

One of the Alumni Weekend coordinators, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development Adrienne Rulnick, said Thursday that 2,300 show tickets were sold. In the past two years, shows drew about 800 alumni.

The University shelled out $190,000 for the ’70s legends, according to a contract obtained by The Hatchet.

Alumna Annette Ffolkes, who was celebrating her 30th reunion, said she was excited to be back on campus for the concert.

“I’ve been a long time fan,” Ffolkes said. “I actually went to see them when I was a freshman here at the [Capital Centre]. I am looking forward to hearing some of the hits they made when I was going to college here.”

Senior Samantha Malone said seeing Knapp play the bongos made her night.

“That was the coolest thing ever,” Malone said. “It was the greatest part of the concert.”

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